Celebrating the women in community business

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Did you know more than half of community businesses are majority led by women?
8 Mar, 2023
Summer Brooks

Summer Brooks

Communications officer

We’ve met so many brilliant women in community business over the years who are all working to create better communities where they live.

Here we share a snapshot from a few inspirational women, exploring their motivations for running a community business.

Sister Midnight was formerly a grassroots music venue based in Deptford. Established in 2018, they quickly became an important part of their local music scene, and a place where people could come together in celebration of southeast London’s music culture. They had to leave their space during the pandemic and so decided to set up Sister Midnight Community Venues Limited, and work towards saving the Ravensbourne Arms after it was sold to private developers to run it as a community business.

“What I want to do is create a venue that can be there long-term, and that can have a long-term impact on communities and music culture in the local area. To do that, you need to have security of tenure and the only way I see that happening is ownership.” Lenny Watson, co-founder joined forces with Sophie Farrell, who, Lenny says, “I think I’d only met five or six times!” after they expressed an interest in the campaign to save the pub for the community. They have also welcomed Lottie Pendlebury as a director. “Lottie’s band Goat Girl have been huge supporters of Sister Midnight from our early days,” says Lenny. “Lottie has been doing incredible work throughout the campaign getting various music industry figures on board.”

Building on their community of customers, musicians, and music lovers, they launched a consultation that saw them receive over 800 responses in just ten days. And people shared their vision for the beautiful pub, with 96% saying they felt this was an important asset for Lewisham.

Read more from Sister Midnight.

In 2021, Sandra Salazar D’eca of Black Rootz and Go Grow With Love was named an Everyday Climate Hero, photographed by Rankin and appeared on billboards across the country.

Her motivations for working in community business are to realise a fair cultural food system for all. Working with communities she is able to create impact, empowering people to actively tackle the climate crisis. “I do this through the philosophy of ‘sowing seeds and cultivating futures’ – to empower, strengthen and bring communities together and closer to nature, to realise the symbiotic relationship with the land. As a collective of individuals we are tackling the climate crisis daily and head on, and we as inhabitants of the land act as stewards so why harm something we are responsible for?

We must return back to nature and participate in holistic lifestyles that support food, land and seed sovereignty through growing your own food, composting, planting crops that promote soil biome, planting trees to clear the air, save energy at home, care for wild life, whilst minimising the use of plastic and rubber and holding the conglomerate polluters to account”.

Read more from Sandra.

Fazeela Hanif is the manager of The Highfield Centre in Keighley, Bradford.

She used a cash grant from Power to Change’s Community Business Fund to invest and develop the property and improve community activities to support young people and isolated groups.

Fazeela enjoys the variety that comes with managing a community centre and setting an example to others. “I think it’s the challenges and changes –, it’s giving others the opportunity to think, well if she can do it, I can do it. It’s about setting that example to them. I came from a volunteering background; I didn’t go to university. I would have liked to, but unfortunately back then circumstances were different. But I got where I wanted to be.”

Reflecting on why she thinks more and more women are finding their place in community business, she said: “There are so many women out there that do it. We’re not just here to do small office jobs, we can build multi-million pound buildings and extensions – we’re like jack of all trades. I think we know that things aren’t going to happen overnight, things are going to take time and there will be challenges along the way, but we want to reach that goal.

“Personally, I think it’s about having your own independence. It’s about building confidence, but so many women have that fear – there is the financial side and the start-up – but it’s about having that support network around you. If you’ve got other responsibilities going on it can be hard to think about how you’re going to manage it, long hours especially in the beginning. It’s about having support, and once you’ve got that the independence and the power over your own decisions you can say I’ve actually achieved this, and I’m helping others.”

Read more from Fazeela.

Nat Mady from Hackney Herbal made the transition to community business from working as an engineer at a design consultancy. A longstanding Hackney resident, she joined a community garden in 2011 where she found her interest in the urban food growing movement. “Community gardens offer something to everyone,” she said. “They bring people together from different walks of life and I met people that I wouldn’t have met just living with my mates in Hackney. I saw how valuable those spaces were for people and for nature and for getting some respite in the city.”

Nat became interested specifically in growing herbs and found that focusing on herbs and their properties captured the imagination of local people. “There would be people who would say: ‘Oh, back home we have this thing and it’s called this, but I don’t know what its English name is, and we use it for this,’ – and people got really excited celebrating the heritage of their plant”.

Nat said that making the jump from the private sector into community business was the right move for her, as it allowed her more creative freedom over her work and the impact it makes. “You have much more control over what you’re doing and your work and maybe from that point of ‘power’ that you end up in, you’re able to challenge some of those things that don’t exist in a more corporate workplace. I think you can challenge the idea that a job is simply something we all have to do to make money. And that running a business means you have to be ruthless to be successful.”

Read more from Nat.

There are thousands of incredible women, like Nat, Fazeela, Sandra and Lenny who are supporting their local communities, creating employment opportunities and improving their local areas. Read more about the impact of community business in this market report and continue to share your stories with us.